MOBO ditches Jazz

Just got this message from the lovely people at Dune records – apparently the organisers of the MOBO awards claim they can’t find four names to nominate for a Jazz category!!! are they mental?? Jazz in the UK is currently stronger creatively than it’s ever been – we’ve had UK independent jazz artists like Zoe Rahman and Polar Bear getting national recognition via the Mercury Music Prize, and some outstanding music coming from the Dune/Tomorrow’s Warriors stable. Musicians like Jason Yarde, Denis Baptiste, Dennis Rollins, Cleveland Watkiss, Soweto Kinch, Byron Wallen, Gary Crosby, Jazz Jamaica… there are LOADS of great black british jazz artists. Loads and Loads. And given that the MOBOs are about music of black origin, not even just black artists, there are even more to choose from.

I have no idea what the MOBOs are about these days – maybe it’s just about getting corporate sponsorship, and no-one was willing to sponsor the Jazz award.

Anyway, here’s the message from the people at Dune Records – have a read, and send an email…
_____________________________________________
The people behind the MOBO (Music Of Black Origin) Awards have scrapped the award for Best Jazz Act.

Their excuse? They cannot find 4 names to put up for nomination! This is an outrage and serves to support the widespread view in the jazz community that the MOBO organisation – an organisation purporting to promote black music – is actively marginalising jazz and jazz artists. We have a hard enough job as it is reminding people that jazz IS black music so MOBO’s action is incredibly unhelpful to the jazz sector, and to the industry as a whole.

There are few enough opportunities for jazz artists to attract the limelight so we can well do without MOBO dropping this award.

Also, in light of new education initiatives to bring jazz into the national curriculum, their action is particularly counterproductive. Not sure why MOBO feel that our young people shouldn’t be exposed/have access to jazz – it is black music after all and an incredibly creative form of black music. They tried the same thing with the Gospel prize (last year?), leading many of us to believe that MOBO is seeking to disenfranchise the very people who created black music.

According to the MOBO Organisation Mission Statement, MOBO:

– identifies, showcases and celebrates music derived from black heritage
– is RnB, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Jazz….
– seeks to promote the history of music of black origin

MOBO’s action would suggest that it’s high time their Board of Directors were reminded of their remit and take remedial action to avoid a great deal of negative publicity surrounding this decision.

Everyone interested in getting jazz and jazz artists due recognition should complain bitterly to MOBO about this utterly nonsensical move.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7419 1800 or info@mobo.com

Some very successful Recycling

Well, last night’s Recycle Collective gig was an absolute blinder! For starters, it was the biggest crowd we had so far (more than 80, possibly 90…), the air conditioning was just perfect after the sweatiness of London these last few weeks, and then there was the music…

I started off with a solo set – I sat down to play and realised that all my song-remembering space in my head was full of the New Standard tunes, and I wasn’t sure I could remember my own stuff! But thankfully they all went really well – definitely the best solo set I’ve played at the RC. Finished off the set with a lovely and slightly shorter than the album version of ‘One Step’ with Julie. Fab first set, well done me!

Then came The New Standard Edinburgh set – as y’all know, we’ve rehearsed long and hard for this, and it all went off without a glitch… well, without a noticeable glitch. Small screw up on the play out to the last tune, but I rescued it, and I v. much doubt anyone but Julie noticed. Julie sang beautifully, and the audience loved it. What fun!

And Set three started with two solo pieces by Cleveland Watkiss – the first a baroque counterpoint thing that was just sublime, and the second a dub/drum ‘n’ bass/gospel thing that was equally amazing. Two fine trio improvs finished off the evening, and everyone went away happy, Julie and I both sold lots of CDs (Cleveland is his usual style didn’t bring any merch).

I think Edinburgh’s going to be magique.

If you were there, please write a review, and post it in the comments here, or over in the forum – thanks for coming!

Next weeks unmissable Recycle gig

We’re only one week away from the next Recycle Collective gig, and it’s going to be a blinder.

It’s a three part gig – part one is my album launch! Yes, I know that lots of you have already bought Behind Every Word (if you have please head over to the shop and post a review of it there, please!), but here’s your chance to hear lots of the tunes from the album live, and it’ll be a longer solo set than my usual 25 minute opening to the Recycle gigs.

then part two is Julie’s and my Edinburgh preview gig. Yup, it’s the only chance you’ll have to see the entire New Standard show from this years Edinburgh fringe, in London. We’ve been rehearsing lots, have come up with a pretty much perfect set list, and you need to come and see it! No really, it’s a must. Julie’s great, I’m not bad, and what’s more, there’s a part three to the gig, where Julie and I will be joined by Cleveland Watkiss, UK jazz legend, and one of the most amazing musicians ever to play at the Recycle Collective. He’s great.

So there you go, next Wednesday, at Darbucka, it’s only £7 to get in (£5 if you’re a student or an OAP or in the MU or whatever – bring proof, please) and the venue’s fab. bring friends, come early and eat, make a night of it.

Yay!

Edinburgh Beckons

It’s now just over a month til Julie and I start our run at the Edinburgh Fringe – we’re rehearsing weekly now (a pretty much unheard of phenomenon in StevieWorld), and the set list and arrangements are really coming together.

Today had a bit of an 80s vibe – we’ve just done a killer version of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ with a couple of other 80s classix woven in in the middle, and we were working on a looped vocal version of Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega, where I get to put my bass down for a tune, but still do the loopage…

The set list is pretty much there, we think – about 12 or 13 songs, no filler material at all. The evidence for this is that I was trying to think which songs we’d do if we got a one or two song set on a radio program or cabaret set at the Fringe (or before), and was really struggling to pick out any one stand-out tune. I’m loving them all!

Don’t forget that we’re doing an Edinburgh Preview show in London on July 26th at This month’s Recycle Collective gig, which is also my official album launch. Yes, it’s going to be an amazing night and all the more amazing because Cleveland Watkiss is coming down to do a lovely improv set with Julie and I to close out the evening. I think ‘unmissable’ is the word. 🙂

see you there, x

Some MySpace Props…

as they say in the hood.

A few MySpace links to various coconspirators –

BJ Cole – genius of the pedal steel, plays on one track on my new album.
Cleveland Watkiss – Recycle Collective regular, one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard, let alone worked with.
Calamateur – Scottish singer/songwriter and found-sound experimentalist. Writes really beautiful songs, and we’ve got a duet album coming out some time in the next few months.
Theo Travis – Saxophonist… you know who Theo is by now, right?
Leo Abrahams – guitarist at the last Recycle Collective gig. Bloomin’ marvellous.
Orphy Robinson – vibes/percussion/trumpet/weirdness. An amazing musician and composer.
Trip Wamsley – solo bassist, composer, player and writer of gorgeous music. New album coming out soon.
Jeff Taylor – played at the first Recycle Collective gig. Great singer/songwriter.

There you go, I’ll add some more soon. Click on those, have a listen, if you’re on myspace already then leave a comment, buy the CDs of the stuff you like, and check out their gig lists!

Should've blogged this a week ago…

It’s normally the first thing I do when Time Out arrives around the time of a Recycle Collective gig – check the entry. But I only got round to looking today, and it’s been in for a week. This is what it says –

*Cleveland Watkiss/Leo
Abrahams/Steve Lawson
Recycle
Collective at Darbucka, EC1: 7pm; £7 concs
£5.
Superb monthly concert series that
explores the relationship between live
improv and live looping (ie recycling the
song as it unfolds and using the created loop
as part of the unfolding piece). Tonight with
superb singer Watkiss, Brian Eno sidekick
Abrahams and bassist Lawson.

that’s rather nice isn’t it? No reason for you not to come along now. :o)

Third musician for the April Recycle Collective!

Well, it’s been an enouraging couple of weeks. I’ve been asking lots of lovely musicians to take part in the Recycle Collective, with a very very positive response. Those who’ve said they want to take part in the future include Seb Rochford, Byron Wallen, Andy Hamill, Rebecca Hollweg and Oroh Angiama. Lots of fantastic musicians, all lovely people too!

And what’s more, the third musician that’s playing with Cleveland Watkiss and I on April 29th is Leo Abrahams, an amazing guitarist and looper that I first saw live playing with Imogen Heap and Nik Kershaw at the Kashmir Klub about 5 years ago, and who played after me at Greenbelt last year. He’s hugely in demand, working recently with Brian Eno, Ed Harcourt, Stairstailor, David Holmes and others, and having worked in the past with Paul Simon and Nick Cave amongst others. I’m so excited about both hearing Leo’s solo set, and what he Cleveland and I will come up with as a trio!

Head over to Leo’s myspace page to hear some of his lovely solo music.

All this means that the Recycle Collective continues to be unmissable.

talk yourself better

Had a lovely afternoon with Cleveland Watkiss. Cleveland came round to check out the Looperlative, but as I couldn’t find my microphone, after a demo of what it can do, we spent a couple of hours talking about the process of making music, approaches to looping, performance ideas, influences, collaborations, all kinds of marvellous conceptual stuff about the process of creating music, of soundtracking the inside of your head, telling your story, absorbing influence and utilising technology.

It was one of the most useful and enjoyable conversations I’ve had about music for a long time, and left me very inspired to both play, and develop the Recycle Collective further. Cleveland is an outstanding musician, with a great pedigree in jazz music and beyond, but is a tireless experimenter, always looking for new ways to channel his creative muse. We’re going to record some more stuff next week.

And now I’m listening to last night’s gig with Theo Travis, having dumped the wav files onto my PC, normalised them, and chopped them up into tracks. It’s sounding great – there are a few blips and glitches here and there on the audio, but nothing that can’t be either sorted out or lived with. Methinks this gig will make up a large part of the live album.

Now, off you go and find someone interesting and open-minded to talk to about whatever it is that drives you creatively – report back here on what you learn!

the Vortex

Been spending far too much time at The New Vortex this last couple of weeks – last week I was there for Dudley Philips album launch gig, then Tuesday I went to see Lleuwen Steffan and her band. Last night was the Works.

Lleuwen is the singer on that welsh hymns album I was raving about last week – still getting lots of airplay here, definitely in my top 5 of the year. The gig on Tuesday was with her band, Acoustique, which featured, unbenownst to me until I got there, my buddy Owen Lloyd Evans on bass. Their set didn’t feature any of the hymn tunes, but did have a lot of originals, sung in Welsh that sounded a bit like a more funky, acoustic Bjork. Lovely stuff. They did a couple of standards, which were fine, but it was the welsh language stuff that really shone. Definitely one to look out for and see if you can.

the Works, formerly known as WoodWorks, is Patrick Wood’s marvellous band – Patrick is surprisingly little-known on the London jazz scene, despite his band acting as breeding ground for so many great musicians in the city – the list of who’s been in the band at one time or another is nuts, from John Etheridge to Andy Gangadeen, Cleveland Watkiss to Tony Remy.

The current line-up is Patrick on keys and guitar, Mark Lockheart on saxes and bass clarinet, Neville Malcom on bass and Nic France on drums. The tunes are lovely open forms that the band jam on and stretch out live – lots of eye contact and hardcore listening going on. The small audience were much appreciative, and hopefully they’ll be playing again soon so you can go see them too!

Both these gigs are yet more evidence that the London jazz scene is producing music of a quality to rival any jazz city on the planet. the Vortex is such a vital venue, and after the sadness of the original vortex closing, it’s great to have it back with the same eclectic booking policy in a great new venue in Stoke Newington. check out their online programme on the website and go see some stuff there!

I’ll almost certainly be back there tonight for Ingrid Laubrook’s quartet, featuring the marvellous Seb Rochford on drums.

And keep an eye out for Theo and I playing there in February.

Plan for today – some teaching this morning, Theo round this afternoon to plan our february tour promotion etc. Some bass practice/R&D for the album after that, and then to see Ingrid play tonight.

Soundtrack – The Pixies, ‘Bossanova’.

Comments trial….

OK, this is a test, but due to overwhelming public demand, I’m going to enable comments for a while, and see how we get on.

I’m making absolutely no pretense about this being any kind of democratic public space – if I don’t like your comment for whatever reason, I’ll delete it; if I can’t be bothered to answer it, I’ll delete it; if you’re the cheat, I’ll delete it.

I guess I’m like the labour party – pretending to be in dialogue with those who hear what I’m saying, when really I’m just a dogmatic old narcissist, who likes the sound of his own voice.

So, you’ve been warned. I may switch them off again if the responses aren’t to my liking. haha!

Soundtrack – me, both solo and with Cleveland Watkiss.